A debt left by her late father has driven a former U.P. bank holding company official to sue an unpopular national collection agency for allegedly breaking the law: Sherry Littlejohn of Newberry says the collection tactics have caused “humiliation, anger, anxiety, emotional distress, fear, frustration and embarrassment”
URG conduct violated the law by allegedly causing “a phone to ring repeatedly” and engaged Littlejohn “in telephone conversations with the intent to annoy and harass” the Luce County woman
By Greg Peterson
Owner, News Director
Upper Peninsula Breaking News
(Marquette) – A former leader in Upper Peninsula banking is taking on a South Carolina-based collection agency for allegedly using illegal and unfair tactics in the zeal to get cash – money allegedly owed by her late father.
An attorney for Sherry Lynn Littlejohn, 56, of Newberry, MI filed the $25,000 civil lawsuit last Friday, Oct. 14, 2016 at federal court in Marquette, MI. A federal civil summons was sent to the defendants on Monday (Oct., 17, 2016). The case is assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Gordon J. Quist and other hearings in the case will be handled by U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy P. Greeley.
Littlejohn had a rare job – as a former bank and bank holding company manager. She bought and sold banks like some of us do normal banking. Plus she knows a little something about debt collection and the collection agency tactics drove her nuts.
Little John is suing United Receivables Group, LLC of Rock Hill, South Carolina; and unknown employees listed as John or Jane Doe 1-10. In filing her case, Littlejohn is demanding a jury trial and hired Wilton, Connecticut attorney Sergei Lemberg, of Lemberg Law, LLC.
U.P. Breaking News contacted Littlejohn who said she did not realize that the lawsuit had been filed already – and has agreed to review the story. She says the suit explains the terror she underwent from the collection company – and made even more painful by her father’s recent death.
Over the decades, Litttlejohn has started numerous banks and mortgage companies across the U.P. (scroll down to see the extensive U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filings about those numerous corporations).
The corporations are too numerous to list but can be seen below or by clicking on the links provided by U.P. Breaking News.
Online federal records indicate that Little John was heavily involved in the U.P. and Northern Lower Peninsula banking industry for about two and a half decades starting the the 90s. In fact, those records indicated Littlejohn bought and sold dozens of banks from Traverse City to Ontonagon.
The records state Littlejohn also owned and sold numerous other businesses including bank brokering, bank holding companies, mortgage broker, lending companies plus eight non-bank subsidiaries such as the health and life insurance business – and was even involved with U.P. governments through a company that “provided tax-exempt lease/purchase financing to municipalities.”
In her lawsuit, Littlejohn accuses United Receivables Group of repeated violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
At issue, is alleged debt left by Littlejohn’s late father Leonard Hood, who died on Wed., May 18, 2016. Leonard Hood, 82, was “a longtime resident of Newberry and Newberry businessman” who died at Helen Newberry Joy Hospital in Newberry.
The original “creditor” was involved in selling household items and the debt is “primarily for family, personal or household purposes.”
The debt was transferred to URG for collection and the company allegedly “attempted to collect the debt.”
Littlejohn says the company pursued her causing great pain and harassment – compounding the death of her father.
URG began calling Littlejohn’s “cellular telephone” repeatedly “in an attempt to collect the debt” including “using an automatic telephone” dialing system (“ATDS” or “predictive dialer”) and/or using an artificial or prerecorded voice.”
When Littlejohn “answered calls from URG, she heard a prerecorded message,” the five-page two-count federal lawsuit states.
In March 2016, Littlejohn “explained to URG that she was not the debtor, and as such demanded that all calls to her cease.”
“URG continued to place automated calls to plaintiff’s cellular telephone number in an attempt to collect the debt,” the civil lawsuit alleges.
Littlejohn says she was driven to her wit’s end by the constant collection tactics. She “has suffered and continues to suffer actual damages as a result of defendants’ unlawful conduct.”
“As a direct consequence of defendants’ acts, practices and conduct” Littlejohn “suffered and continues to suffer from humiliation, anger, anxiety, emotional distress, fear, frustration and embarrassment,” the lawsuit alleges.
The lawsuit alleges that United Receivables Group (URG), LLC “engaged in behavior the natural consequence of which was to harass, oppress, or abuse” Littlejohn “in connection with collection of the debt.”
URG conduct violated the law by allegedly causing “a phone to ring repeatedly” and engaged Littlejohn “in telephone conversations with the intent to annoy and harass” the Luce County woman.
URG “used unfair and unconscionable means to collect the debt” and URG employee actions “constitute numerous and multiple violations of the FDCPA.”
Judges and juries can award monetary damages if the charges are believed.
URG allegedly called Littlejohn’s “cellular telephone number using an ATDS or predictive dialer and/or using a prerecorded or artificial voice.” URG “continued to place automated calls to plaintiff’s cellular telephone,” the suit alleges, and did so “despite knowing that they lacked consent to do so.”
“Each call placed to Plaintiff was made in knowing and/or willful violation of the TCPA, and subject to treble damages,” the lawsuit states.
Littlejohn “was annoyed, harassed and inconvenienced by defendant’s continued calls,” the civil suit states.
The collection calls were “not placed” for “emergency purposes”as defined by federal law.
The suit apparently is for a minimum of $25,000 however it specifically demands “$500 in statutory damages for each call” that were “placed in violation of the TCPA.” Littlejohn “is entitled to an award of treble damages in an amount up to $1,500.”
Littlejohn is seeking the payment of attorney’s fees by URG, statutory damages and punitive damages for suffering – plus all “other and further relief as may be just and proper.”
URG Engages in Harassment and Abusive Tactics
Plaintiff Sherry Littlejohn Suffered Actual Damages
Count I: Violations of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA)
Count II: Violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)
The company has been the subject of numerous lawsuits and even an investigative report by a Santa Barbara, California TV station (KCOY/KEYT) took the company to task for sending collection employees to show up at peoples homes trying to collect money and making threats. The original 2014 story was updated in August 2016.
TV stations KCOY/KEYT reported:
The company called United Receivable Group or U.R.G. is calling local residents and threatening to show up with police at their home or work and have them arrested unless they pay an alleged outstanding debt immediately.
“Hi, this is Agent Garcia. I’ve been contracted to serve you with a summons to appear in court. At this time, myself and the local authorities will be coming to your place of employment or residence. If you wish to rectify this matter outside of court prior to my arrival and avoid any (inaudible). I need you to contact the legal department at 866-305-6975 in reference to your case number,” said the woman on the other end of phone.
North Country Financial Corporation, incorporated December 16, 1974
The Corporation changed its name to:
First Manistique Corporation on April 14, 1998
Littlejohn owned or owns eight non-bank subsidiaries:
First Manistique Agency, an insurance agency which sells annuities as well as life and health insurance
First Rural Relending Company, a relending company for nonprofit organizations
North Country Financial Group, provides tax-exempt lease/purchase financing to municipalities
North Country CapitalTrust, a statutory business trust formed solely for the issuance of trust preferred securities
NCB Real Estate Company, which owns several properties used by the Bank North Country Mortgage Company LLC, mortgage lending and brokering American Financial Mortgage Corporation, mortgage lending and brokering North Country Employee Leasing Company, leases employees to North Country Bank and Trust
2001 SEC filing
North Country Financial Corporation (the “Registrant” or “Corporation”) was incorporated under the laws of the state of Michigan on December 16, 1974. The Corporation changed its name from “First Manistique Corporation” to “North Country Financial Corporation” on April 14, 1998.
The Registrant owns all of the outstanding stock of its banking subsidiary, North Country Bank and Trust (the “Bank”).
The Registrant also owns eight non-bank subsidiaries: First Manistique Agency, an insurance agency which sells annuities as well as life and health insurance; First Rural Relending Company, a relending company for nonprofit organizations; North Country Financial Group, a corporation which provides tax-exempt lease/purchase financing to municipalities; North Country CapitalTrust, a statutory business trust which was formed solely for the issuance of trust preferred securities; NCB Real Estate Company, which owns several properties used by the Bank; North Country Mortgage Company LLC and American Financial Mortgage Corporation, entities engaged in the business of mortgage lending and brokering; and North Country Employee Leasing Company, a company that leases employees to North Country Bank and Trust.
The Bank represents the principal asset of the Registrant.
The Registrant and its subsidiary Bank are engaged in a single industry segment, commercial banking, broadly defined to include commercial and retail banking activities along with other permitted activities closely related to banking.
The Registrant became a registered bank holding company under the Bank Holding Company Act of 1956, as amended, on April 1, 1976, when it acquired First Northern Bank and Trust (“First Northern”).
On May 1, 1986, Manistique Lakes Bank merged with First Northern.
The Registrant acquired all of the outstanding stock of the Bank of Stephenson on February 8, 1994, in exchange for cash and common stock.
The Bank of Stephenson was operated as a separate banking subsidiary of the Registrant until September 30, 1995, when it was merged into First Northern. First Northern acquired Newberry State Bank on December 8, 1994, in exchange for cash.
On September 15, 1995, First Northern acquired the fixed assets and assumed the deposits of the Rudyard branch of First of America Bank, in exchange for cash.
The Registrant acquired all of the outstanding stock of South Range State Bank (“South Range”) on January 31, 1996, in exchange for cash and notes.
On August 12, 1996, First Northern and South Range changed their names to North Country Bank and Trust and North Country Bank, respectively.
On February 4, 1997, the Registrant acquired all of the outstanding stock of UP Financial Inc., the parent holding company of First National Bank of Ontonagon (“Ontonagon”). Ontonagon was merged into North Country Bank.
North Country Bank was operated as a separate banking subsidiary of the Registrant until March 10, 1998, when it was merged into North Country Bank and Trust.
On June 25, 1999, North Country Bank and Trust acquired the fixed assets and assumed the deposits of the Kaleva and Mancelona branches of Huntington National Bank in exchange for cash.
On July 23, 1999, North Country Bank and Trust sold the fixed assets and deposits of the Rudyard and Cedarville branches to Central Savings Bank in exchange for cash.
On January 14, 2000, North Country Bank and Trust sold the fixed assets and deposits of the Garden branch to First Bank, Upper Michigan in exchange for cash.
On June 16, 2000, North Country Bank and Trust acquired the fixed assets and assumed the deposits of the Glen Arbor and Alanson branches of Old Kent Bank, in exchange for cash.
On July 13, 2001, North Country Bank and Trust sold the fixed assets and deposits of the St. Ignace and Mackinaw Island branches to Central Savings Bank in exchange for cash.
On November 9, 2001, North Country Bank and Trust sold the fixed assets and deposits of the
Curtis and Naubinway branches to State Savings Central Savings Bank in exchange for cash.
The Bank has 17 branch offices located in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and ten branch offices located in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula.
The Bank maintains offices in Grand Traverse, Otsego, Wexford, Manistee, Antrim, Leelanau, Emmet, Schoolcraft, Menominee, Delta, Dickinson, Houghton, Baraga, Ontonagon, Marquette, Luce, Alger, Chippewa and Charlevoix counties. The Bank provides drive-in convenience at 20 branch locations and has automatic teller machines operating at 14 locations. The Bank has no foreign offices.
The Corporation is headquartered in Traverse City, Michigan.
The executive offices and mailing address of the Corporation are located at 1011 Noteware
Drive, Traverse City, Michigan 49686.
The discussions in this Report on Form 10-K and the documents incorporated
herein by reference, which are not statements of historical fact (including
statements in the future tense and those which include terms such as “believe,”
“will,” “expect,” and “anticipate”) contain forward-looking statements that
involve risks and uncertainties. The Corporation’s actual future results could
materially differ from those discussed. Factors that might cause actual results
to differ from the results discussed in forward-looking statements include, but
are not limited to:
o General economic conditions, either nationally or the state in which
the Corporation does business;
o Legislation or regulatory changes which adversely affect the
businesses in which the Corporation is engaged;
o Changes in the interest rate environment which increase or decrease
interest rate margins;
o Changes in securities markets with respect to the market value of
financial assets and the level of volatility in certain markets such
as foreign exchange;
o Significant increases in competition in the banking and financial
services industry resulting from industry consolidation, regulatory
changes and other factors, as well as actions taken by particular
o Changes in consumer spending, borrowing and savings habits;
o Technological changes;
o Acquisitions and unanticipated occurrences which delay or reduce the
expected benefits of acquisitions;
o The Corporation’s ability to increase market share and control
o The effect of compliance with legislation or regulatory changes;
Sherry Littlejohn v. United Receivables Group, LLC et al
U.S. District Court Judge Gordon J. Quist
Referred to U.S. Magistrate Judge Timothy P. Greeley
Cause: 15:1692 Fair Debt Collection Act
Date Filed: 10/14/2016
Nature of Suit: 480 Consumer Credit
United Receivables Group, LLC
572 John Ross Pkwy
STE 107 # 12
Rock Hill, SC 29730-8975
13806 Turnbull Ave.
Newberry, MI 49868
Newberry High School Class of 1978
Listed current or former residences include Newberry, Grand Rapids, McMillan, Manistique
Littlejohn’s father Leonard Hood died in on Wed., May 18, 2016 in Newberry
Littlejohn’s late mother Joyce Marie Hood – died Jan. 2008 at age 72 at the Helen Newberry Joy Hospital – her husband would pass eight years later
Plaintiff Littlejohn Attorney:
Lemberg Law LLC
43 Danbury Rd., 3rd Fl.
Wilton, CT 06897